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Rediscovering Saraswati

Rediscovering Saraswati
Last week, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) introduced a revamped curriculum for the engineering college and asked engineering colleges to include the study of Vedas, Purans, and Tark Sashtra in the syllabus. It also reduced the credits accorded to theory papers from 220 to 160 and asked engineering colleges to augment and emphasis lab and practical works as well as exposure to real work environment through intensive internships. Despite a large number of engineering colleges and Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in the country, the quality of graduates from these institutions is awfully dismal. There is a serious lack of employability among these graduates and most of them try to get into government jobs instead of taking up a career of research and innovation. In such a scenario, the country which spends a lot of money to create educational infrastructure for technical education and offers subsidized education to the students do not benefit from the final outcome. Rather, providing them with government jobs becomes an added responsibility. Some of the top engineering colleges like IITs and some others have a great reputation of nurturing a culture of research and innovation among the students and equipping them with cutting-edge knowledge and skill. However, most of the graduates from IITs and similarly top of the line engineering colleges eventually end up working with MNCs in foreign shores and earn astronomical wages, a far cry from the dismal opportunity and employment scenario in the country, aptly described as brain drain. That AICTE has not been able to check this trend and offer plausible alternatives only underscores its lack of motivation if not downright apathy and incompetence as the statutory regulatory body of technical education in the country. Some sections of the academia will certainly ridicule the decision to include ancient Vedas, Purana and Tarka Sashtra texts in the curriculum of modern engineering colleges but how do they defend the current education system which does not equip our graduates with even one employable skill even after spending 15 complete years of one's formative life in schools and colleges? Even if we factor in the innovation that some high-budget private schools have introduced in their curriculum and method of teaching, the fact remains that most of the students passing out of these schools and millions of government schools are without the skill to earn a dignified living. Same is largely true of engineering graduates. There is serious need to revamp the current education system which is geared up to produce clerks of various hierarchies, as the British educationists had planned for Indians. Even if we don't subscribe to the idea that India was the country where plastic surgery was invented and the first aeroplane took the test-flight, can anyone dispute the fact that the idea of zero and articulation of its place-value was invented in India? From Alchemy to astrology, ancient India's contribution is far greater than modern India's body of work in the same field. From Ayurveda to yoga, from a ritualistic pure life to knowledge of metaphysics, how the India of yore was much more advanced than today's strife-torn communities of poor people that the country represents? From a civilisation that lived and flourished along the great rivers, how come we ended up polluting the Yamuna and the Ganga like they are today? We owe our civilization to these very rivers that we today don't care a hoot. Let's study the Vedas and Puranas afresh!
It is in this context that the Haryana government's efforts to revive the mythological Saraswati river is heart-warming. The government has set up institutional bodies and allocated funds to undertake the discovery and revival of the Saraswati, which is believed to be flowing underground following some tectonic upheavals thousands of years ago. Currently, there is a Saraswati river festival going on in Adi Badri, believed to be the source of the river, and in about 10 districts of Haryana through which this river was supposed to be flowing. Individuals and institutions are reportedly offering generation donations for this work and an army of saints and sadhus are camping along the supposed route of the river, amid community kitchens and chants of mantras. The right-wing BJP which is in power at the Centre and in Haryana always had these issues on its agenda. Now that it is in power, it must deliver on these issues. The land from where the epoch-making verses of Gita emanated and defined the Indian way of life in no uncertain ways, Haryana also needs to discover and revive the robust flow of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, as we need to clean the Yamuna and the Ganga.
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